Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. - C. S. Lewis
Friday, January 21, 2011
I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge
I ordered I Saw Three Ships for the holidays, but the interlibrary loan service was a bit sluggish and it didn't arrive until January. Nevertheless I dove into the story because as a fan of both children’s lit and of Elizabeth Goudge, I had little doubt that I would like it. But I wasn’t prepared for how intensely I would like it. I am in wonder as to how Goudge created such a richly peopled tale around a traditional Christmas carol and made it work.
The story takes place in the late 1700’s in a coastal village in England. Polly’s parents have died in an accident and she has been living with her two maiden aunts for ten months. This is going to be her first Christmas with them and they are shocked with her announcement that the Wise Men will visit their cottage on Christmas Eve. Reading how the skeptical aunts soften and how Polly's dream comes true was a special treat.
A sample of Goudge’s lovely writing:
Dorcas gathered her old brown cloak firmly about her, as though the balmy southwest wind were a savage northeaster, and peered out from the recesses of her brown beaver bonnet like an owl from the shelter of a hollow tree. Nevertheless there was the hint of a smile upon her usually grim mouth. For though she did not admit it, she was enjoying this expedition in search of the erring Polly. The sharp tang of the seaweed lying in shining coils on the sand below her was delightful. The sparkle of the sea in the sunshine raised her spirits. Turning to look at the little town, she found she had forgotten how pretty it was with its steep cobbled streets climbing the hill, its old red roofs all higgledy-piggledy and the plumes of smoke from the chimneys azure in the clear air. (p. 28)